At least 200,000 ducks in France had been culled as of Tuesday amid an outbreak of bird flu and another 400,000 are expected to be culled as a preventive measure, the French agriculture ministry has confirmed to Euronews.
The ministry’s situation report states that there were 61 outbreaks confirmed as of January 1, 2021, including 48 in the Landes department alone. The outbreaks are located in the southern part of the department which is “an area very densely populated with ducks” intended for the production of foie gras, ministry official Loic Evain told AFP on Tuesday. “Experts are gathered at this very moment” to assess the situation and “If the spread of the virus continues, we will have to take even more drastic measures,” he added. Foie Gras producers are now calling for state compensation over the very contagious bird flu outbreak. The Landes department produces more of France’s foie gras than any other area.
“The French Foie Gras sector plays a very important role in the country’s economy and supports around 30,000 families in rural areas and represents nearly 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, the vast majority located in the South West from France,” said the Inter-professional Committee for Foie Gras (CIFOG) in a statement released on Wednesday. The committee “calls for a strengthening of the human resources of State services on the ground in order to speed up the implementation of management measures these homes”. Meanwhile, a poultry farmer union said that it came as a “massive blow” to farmers “already very impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19”. Serge Mora, the head of an agricultural union, said that he didn’t “know which sector of activity can withstand three crises in 5 years,” according to France 3.
Bird flu outbreaks in 2016 and 2017 that forced the country to cull six million ducks as part of outbreaks and for preventive measures, a ministry spokesperson told Euronews, it’s not the only outbreak of the H5N8 virus in Europe. Dutch authorities culled nearly 200,000 chickens in November amid the contagious strain of bird flu. Just last week, an agricultural minister in northern Germany warned the virus was still active after cases were found on two farms in the country. “Avian influenza is still very active! And that’s why we must not take the epidemic lightly but must ensure the highest level of bio-security in our businesses and hobby farms,” said regional Minister for Agriculture in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Dr Till Backhaus.
More than 100 birds were culled after the cases were found, a German risk assessment report from October highlighted that the virus had been reported in wild birds in Russia and Kazakhstan since July 2020. That October report suggested monitoring dead birds due to migration routes over the weeks that followed, emphasising that prevention is better than fighting the disease later.